Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

April 18, 2013

McDowell County man pleads guilty to second-degree murder of wife

WELCH — A McDowell County man who shot his wife and then tried to take his own life — only to be saved by his dentures — pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder.

Robert Johnson, 69, of O’Toole was scheduled for trial in McDowell County Circuit Court on a charge of first-degree murder when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jason Grubb. Johnson now faces between 10 to 40 years in prison.

The case began on Aug. 31, 2011 when Johnson’s wife, 67-year-old Patricia Johnson, was murdered.

“He shot his wife in the back of the head as she was at the computer,” Grubb recalled.

Johnson then went to his brother and admitted that he had killed his wife.

“He then left the scene and went to his brother’s home, told his brother, ‘I killed my wife’, and after some discussion, shot himself,” Grubb said.

Johnson shot himself under the chin. The bullet entered his mouth and shattered his dentures, Grubb said. This obstruction deflected the bullet and saved his life. He was revived and taken to the Charleston Area Medical Center where he later recovered.

“It (the bullet) is lodged in his brain behind the right orbital lobe,” Grubb said.

Johnson now says that he has “memory loss surrounding his wife’s shooting,” the assistant prosecutor added.

 The gun Johnson used was a “very rare” .327-caliber handgun, Grubb stated. It was initially described as a .357-caliber weapon; the two types of firearms closely resemble each other.

A plea to second-degree murder entails a definite term of incarceration ranging from 10 to 40 years, Grubb said. Johnson would have to serve a minimum of five years because a gun was used in the crime. He will be eligible for parole after one third of his sentence is served.

Johnson and his wife each had previous marriages with other spouses.

“They were high school sweethearts who reunited when they both had their marriages end,” Grubb said. The motive behind the shooting remains unknown.

Johnson was remanded to the Southwestern Regional Jail in Holden, a community in Logan County. He was represented in court by attorney R. Keith Flinchum. The McDowell County Prosecutor is Edward J. Kornish.

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